Showing posts from June, 2017

Praise in a Time of Trouble

Scripture 2 Chr. 20:21 When he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy splendor, as they went before the army, saying, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
King Jehosephat called out to God and wanted the people to know who it was that he worshipped. Far too many of the kings had worshipped idols but now, this was to be a declaration that the Israelites worshiped the Lord. 
The people of God were going into battle and instead of beginning the day with fear and trembling, the King led his people to worship God. They were to sing as they made their way into battle. The song that they sang is one we often sing these days — a Psalm of praise. 
Instead of focusing on their troubles they were to focus on God, giving praise in the time of trouble. 
Great confidence in God is revealed by Jehosephat’s commitment to praise. He could have responded in any number of ways but instead chos…

The Place of Prayer

Scripture 1Tim. 2:1    First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. 3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Prayer must be a primary focus of the believer’s life. As the young Pastor Timothy is being encouraged, prayer must be a priority in his life and in that of his congregation. Then, specific instructions are given in regard to the content of prayer. There are to be supplications — earnestly asking or begging for things. There are times when this is necessary because the burdens we are carrying are so heavy. There are to be prayers which include worship of God. Then, there are to be intercessions, where we pray for others, and finally thanksgivings or praises lifted up to God. 
For wh…

Looking for Answers in the World

Scripture 2Kings 1:2   Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay injured; so he sent messengers, telling them, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this injury.” 3 But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Get up, go to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?’ 
When the king suffered from a traumatic injury his first inclination was not to seek advice from the prophet of God. Instead of going to his own God — he sought out the advice of the neighboring god. Oddly, the neighboring god had no track record with Israel like the LORD did. There was no history of bringing the people out of Egypt and making provision for them by the god of Ekron. Why go somewhere else for advice? Could it be that the king didn’t want to submit to the God of Israel? The result was that he,…

Selective Hearing

Scripture 2 Chr. 18:7 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one other by whom we may inquire of the Lord, Micaiah son of Imlah; but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything favorable about me, but only disaster.” Jehoshaphat said, “Let the king not say such a thing.”
Ahab, the king, only wanted to hear things that made him feel good. The prophets knew this to be true and they valued their own lives, so they refused to tell him anything that he didn’t want to hear. Because of this God knew that Ahab could be easily swayed to become engaged in a war in which he would be defeated. 
Ahab was so consumed with himself and stroking his own ego that he had selective hearing. He only wanted good news and wasn’t willing to accept the reality of life. Ahab knew that there was a prophet who would tell him the truth but he avoided him. 
Micaiah had no personal vendetta against Ahab, he was simply an honest servant of God, and when asked, spoke the truth. So as to av…

Grace Beyond our Imagination

Scripture 1Kings 21:25   (Indeed, there was no one like Ahab, who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord, urged on by his wife Jezebel. 26 He acted most abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord drove out before the Israelites.) 1Kings 21:27   When Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth over his bare flesh; he fasted, lay in the sackcloth, and went about dejectedly. 28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29 “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster on his house.”
Ahab and Jezebel are poster children for some of the most wicked people in the Bible and perhaps, in all of history. Therefore, coming to this section regarding the final days of Ahab’s life are a bit stunning. Verses 25-26 are placed as a bit of commentary for us to understand the v…

Knowledge of God’s Mystery

Scripture Col. 2:1   For I want you to know how much I am struggling for you, and for those in Laodicea, and for all who have not seen me face to face. 2 I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I am saying this so that no one may deceive you with plausible arguments. 
Paul’s love for those whom he had led to Christ was always evident in his desire to see them continue in their spiritual growth and development. He continued praying and “struggling” for those who he could no longer see face to face. His passion stemmed from his own personal transformation in Christ. He knew what it was that made him rich, and it wasn’t the things of this world. It was the promise of assured knowledge of God’s mystery that he knew would lead into life in the kingdom. Jesus Christ was the…

Doing Hard Things

Scripture 2Chr. 15:16   King Asa even removed his mother Maacah from being queen mother because she had made an abominable image for Asherah. Asa cut down her image, crushed it, and burned it at the Wadi Kidron.
Asa wanted to follow God’s commands but he inherited many problems within his kingdom. Unfortunately one of his problems was his own mother, who worshipped Asherah. In her enthusiasm she had an image made of this god created by human hands. Her influence upon the people had corrupted them, and doing what he must, he removed his mother from office.
Sometimes following Jesus means doing something really hard. When Asa began to read the scriptures he realized that he was not being the kind of leader that he ought to be. He also realized that being a leader means sometimes having to do really hard things. One can only imagine how difficult it must have been to discipline his own mother. And yet, for the sake of the kingdom of God he was willing to do the right …

Showing Concern for Others

Scripture Phil. 4:10   I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. 11 Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 14 In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress.
The church in Philippi had been able to help Paul. Interestingly, he wasn’t as concerned in the actual support they provided for his benefit, but for what they would learn spiritually from the act. He wanted them to realize the interconnectedness of followers of Christ and by showing concern for others, they had been willing to share Paul’s distress. Becoming participants together with ot…

Pressing on Toward the Goal

Scripture Phil. 3:12   Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. 
Earlier in this letter Paul had described to the Philippians his desire to know Christ. This was not just a superficial knowledge, but a knowledge of participation. This becomes the goal for Paul, to participate with Christ and become more and more like him. 
Now he goes on to explain that he has not yet reached that goal, but that it remains ever before him. Therefore, while he can, he will press on toward that goal. He clearly puts aside everything that might distract him and leans forward, drawn by grace, but participating by his own effort to become more like Chris…

Honor and Respect

Scripture Phil. 2:25   Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus—my brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister to my need; 26 for he has been longing for all of you, and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 He was indeed so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, in order that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy, and honor such people, 30 because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me.
Epaphroditus had been ministering to Paul, but while doing so had become very ill. Paul was now sending him back home to Philippi and wanted the people there to receive him home with gratitude for the things he had done for the gospe…

The End of the Matter

Scripture Eccl. 12:13   The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. 
We come to the end of the book of Ecclesiastes and the author discovers that all the things of the world are vanity. No matter how hard one tries in life there are circumstances beyond their control and the energies spent may simply become “vanity.” The real value in life is found in one’s relationship with God. Put everything else aside and discover the value in fearing God and keeping the commandments. This is the end of the matter — and it is for everyone. 
Reading through Ecclesiastes we can discover much practical advice for life. Over and again we are taught the value of wisdom and are cautioned from destructive paths. At the same time the author comes to the conclusion that of utmost importance is fearing God and keeping the commandments. 
When I begin my day my mind can be filled with all the events and activities t…

Learning Christ

Scripture Ephesians 4:20 That is not the way you learned Christ! 
The Apostle Paul doesn’t say that the people had learned “about” Christ, but that they had “learned” Christ. There is a distinct difference as one may study a subject to gain knowledge, or someone can practice a subject so that it becomes a part of who they are. We don’t just study medicine — we practice medicine. The same is true about learning Christ. The challenge here is to know Christ and everything that he embodies. When one gets to know Christ in this way, there is no possibility of deception by the enemy. The people of the world were living out of the hardness of their hearts. The Ephesian believers were to have learned Christ in such a way that he was embodied in their hearts and lives. Therefore they were to be completely and totally renewed, living in righteousness and holiness. 
It’s much easer to learn about something, than to really “learn” something. There have been times when I have t…

Power Does Not Comfort

Scripture Eccl. 4:1    Again I saw all the oppressions that are practiced under the sun. Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power—with no one to comfort them. 
In contemplating the ways in which the powers of this world function the author explains reality. Unfortunately there are those who are oppressed by those who have power. Those who have power may see the wielding of this power, the oppression of others, as a soothing comfort for their own vexed souls. The oppressed are torn apart, suffering, and there is no one to comfort them. Those with power have tried in vain to prop their own egos by their behavior, only to discover there is no one to comfort them either. There is no comfort for those who will steal power from others and their activity leaves them devoid of their true needs. 
Every person has power in some way, shape, or form. There will always be a particular circumstance in life wher…

I’m Thirsty!

Scripture John 7:37   On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38 and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
While Jesus spoke these words during one festival, it would be on the great festival of the Feast of Weeks that Spirit would be poured out on all those who were waiting and praying in the upper room. It was during this earlier festival that Jesus spoke of the coming of the Holy Spirit. The metaphor Jesus used was about thirsting. The desire for the Holy Spirit is to be as visceral as one who is dying of thirst in a desert. The sweet and refreshing water of life is found in the infilling presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. …

Mourning and Comfort

Scripture Matt. 5:4   “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
No one wants to think that mourning could be a positive thing and yet, Jesus makes it a part of his sermon on the mount. This mourning, however, is not the mourning of those who have lost a loved one, but of those who are willing to intercede. He is speaking of  those whose hearts are so tender that they continually mourn over the sins of the world and the acts of the sinners. Those who are called to mourn the sins of others will discover a companionship with the Lord on high, and their own hearts will be comforted. Grief over the sins of others drives us to mourn and in return we discover the great comfort of God. 
To be quite honest I was drawn to this passage because it’s been a week of loss and grief. It started with a funeral a week ago today, followed by news of the loss of a giant of the faith on Sunday. That evening a phone call regarding the health of a loved one was quite stun…

Hoping in the Lord

Scripture Psa. 33:18   Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, 19to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.
Psa. 33:20   Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and shield. 21Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. 22Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, even as we hope in you.
The lead up to this section is about the perceived strength of secular leaders. They look at the size of their army and at their human-made resources and believe that they are powerful. But this is deceptive and enticing. 
The reminder from the Psalmist is that the Lord is watching out for those who fear him. Our hope is not to be in human machinery, political systems or powers. More than any system the world can create, God is our help and our shield. Our joy comes from trusting in “his holy name.” The love of the Triune God is poured out upon those who place their entire hope in the Lord.